Food with Integrity?

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We have all heard of the chain restaurant Chipotle. A company that boasts about its “Food with Integrity” a commitment to changing how people view fast food. Their goal is to create food with quality ingredients, which may include but are not limited to anti-biotic free meat, organic vegetables, and locally sourced food supplies. Which was all fine and dandy with me in the beginning. There are many different types of agricultural operations and I stand behind the idea that agriculture should be diverse. Giving our consumers options and allowing them to make their own decisions about their health and wellbeing is something that agriculturists should always stand behind. That being said I must say that I completely disagree with Chipotle on their ad campaign, Farmed and Dangerous. Which I understand is meant to be a satire but, it actually comes off as an oxymoron in my eyes. Now I’m not stupid I know that satire is designed to make people feel strongly about something. It does, it strongly makes me feel like Chipotle is run by a bunch of morons that have little to no idea about American Agriculture.

I am an agriculturalist and a strong advocate for agriculture. I don’t know everything about agriculture (that would be nearly impossible) I do, however know enough to take a stance and form a knowledgeable argument on most topics having to do with agriculture. So here is my argument and evidence against Chipotle:

1) Integrity as we all know is a noun, its definition is: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Now how can Chipotle believe that they are running their company in a manner that fits into the definition of integrity when they are running an ad campaign attacking the very agriculture that is producing the food that they serve? Now I know that many Chipotle fans are up in arms over this statement so let me explain: Chipotle only uses SOME antibiotic free meat, SOME organic produce, and SOME locally sourced food which means that all the other food that they use in their restaurants does not fall under those categories. Wow… right? That doesn’t seem very honest or morally upright to me…  I wouldn’t call it false advertising but, its not exactly telling the whole truth either. Where does this other unaccounted for part of their product come from? Other forms of agriculture of course!  It’s my understanding that Chipotle is striving to one day exclusively serve these products, that is not however a excuse to bash all other agricultural production methods. Other methods should not be seen as “bad” or “inhumane” but should be seen as different. I must really emphasize the DIFFERENT part of that statement. (on a side note the USDA has strict rules about animal and plant agriculture)

2) In Chipotle’s first episode of their new mini-series they aim to paint agriculture as a large, cold, inhuman industry which is completely false. Are there large farming operations out there? Yes, I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t. Are these businesses run by cruel, unfeeling, hateful people like the man in the video? For the most part no, I would be wrong to say that there are not those out there that are this way, but for the most part farmers/ranchers care very much for their animals and land. Look at it this way animals produce higher quality products and remain more productive for longer periods of time if we take care of them the way that should be taken care of. The same thing goes for the land we cultivate. If we take care of our land and animals they will take care of us. You also have to add in the family factor of farming; 97% of all farming operations are run by families, individuals, family partnerships, or family corporations. That means that large industrial corporations only make up 2% of  American Agricultural operations. So Chipotle’s painting of crude, wall street, business men running large laboratory operations simply isn’t true. It would be more accurate to say that there are families that operate large ranch or crop facilities. For example my friend Katharine is a third generation dairy farmer. Her family owns and operates a dairy in central Utah with 3,000 cows. Their dairy is a family operation her mother, father, two brothers, sister in law, and grandfather are highly involved in the day to day operations. They all care very much for the cows used in their operation and work very hard to maintain their herd at a very high standard, sometimes higher than the standards set forth by the USDA. Why do they do this? Because they know that healthy happy cows are more profitable!

3) In addition to the family aspect of agriculture there are only 2.1 million full time U.S. farms that produce 80% of our food and fiber. Think about how many people there are in the US, a little over 300 million, now think about how many farmers there are… One American farmer feeds 155 people. This means that as more people choose to live in cities we will need to have more large scale production agriculture. By 2050 we (farmers/ranchers) will have to feed 9 billion people… let that sink in for a minute. That means our food production will need to double! Which also means that farmers and ranchers will have to come up with more innovative and efficient ways to produce food and fiber. We are working to meet this challenge. Now this isn’t the image of farming that Chipotle would have you see.

4) Another idea that Chipotle plants into your head is that agriculturists are preforming weird science fair type projects on their animals in order to make more money. Well I can clear that one up real fast if you want to be rich farming isn’t for you. Seriously. Agriculture is not for the faint of heart. If you want to be a millionaire, that gets to sleep a steady eight hours a night, and has time to go on vacation for two weeks a year, and holds a 8-5 job agriculture is not for you. On average farmers get 584 hours less sleep than the average american gets in a year. Yeah thats right agriculturalists sleep less so that you can eat!

As far as the weird sci-fi science that they show in that episode well I’ve never seen it on your average farming operation… ever. We would never, ever, under any circumstances consider blowing up our cows to produce petroleum… that is beyond ridiculous. Now if you want to talk about all the cool new high tech farming and ranching methods yes we do have those. Like tractors with GPS, conservation tillage methods, and diary cows that wear tracking bands. When it comes to antibiotics, hormones, and feed additives that are used on livestock and poultry the USDA tests the products before they are allowed on the market, most of which have to be prescribed by a licensed Veterinarian. Chipotle would like you to believe that not only are we cruel but we are uneducated about the decisions that we are making, which is not true. Farmers and ranchers are highly educated about their operation and the decisions that they and their Veterinarian are making.

5) The weird science, cruelty, greed, whoring out of ones daughter, among many other things portrayed in Farmed and Dangerous personally offend me. ( I won’t even touch the whoring out ones daughter subject… because I was livid when I saw that) But above all the way that farming is portrayed as a top secret operation offends me the most. I don’t keep anything about my job in agriculture a secret. If you have questions about what its like to raise sheep ask me, I am more than willing to answer them. I know that the average person is three to four generations removed from agriculture but that is no excuse for being uneducated about where your food comes from. There are plenty of farmers/ranchers, agricultural education teachers, and 4-H extension agents that are more than willing to answer your questions, so please ask!

Chipotle, I am a farmer. I am proud to say that I am nothing like the “farmer” you portray in your mini series. I don’t know any farmers like the one you have dreamed up, props on the creativity though I never would have imagined blowing up Holsteins to produce petroleum. Maybe I’m just a kind, intelligent, average farm girl.

Note * all of my facts are from one of the following,

the American Farm Bureau web cite- http://www.fb.org

Farm Policy Facts web cite- http://www.farmpolicyfacts.org

Americas Farmers web cite- http://www.americasfarmers.com

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